“Stupid Is As Stupid Does”

ithinkyoushould-consider-the-age-of-stupidPlease consult the Forrest Gump Glossary of terms and explanations if you are not familiar with the title of this piece. It is a well-known American cultural reference.


Once upon a time I worked in an international creative design studio that practiced graphic, product and interior design. My employer*, a man whom many considered “smart” and “successful,” assumed that [most] people were stupid. He never actually said “people are stupid,” but he implied, and applied this theory to his creative practice. In many ways he lived in that rarefied world of privilege. His world was filled with luxury and travel, sexy happenings, money and beautiful people. It was all very high-end, and very glamourous indeed.


During the process of design creation, he would often smile/smirk with self-satisfaction and say aloud, “People are not going to get this.” Or, “People won’t know what to think when they see this”, and so on. In effect, he wasn’t interested in communicating to all People, just some. When he would say this, I would say, “wow, whenever I meet “People,” I always assume  an intelligence level equal to, or greater than mine.” His response came via a disapproving “look”, which I safely surmised was based on the sum total of his set of professional experiences and preferences. In other words, he was not at all in agreement with me. Then again, he was talking about The Masses. And in hindsight it is likely that the impressions he had of the The Masses, and the ideas he held about The Masses were “true.”


It’s no secret that we are a spoon-fed culture. Those “in the know,” tell us what to think, how to act, what to wear, how to move, what to eat, and so on. They not only set the proverbial tone, but they create and set the trend[s] and impressions. We might call them experts, or we might call them gurus, or thinkers, or list-makers, or by any other superlative that divides “them” from “us.” Sometimes these thinkers and movers and shakers have altruistic motivations, and sometimes they don’t. [If you are up on your The Tao of Wu by The Rza, you will know that I am referring to the 10%.] The Masses, unfortunately are rarely in a position to accurately judge whether The Thinkers are thinking in terms of our best interest since The Masses are experts at being lead as opposed to leading. [I’m waiting for the day when a social media app starts telling us to OBEY. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination since we have already normalized “following,” and “liking”, thanks to Twitter and Facebook respectively.]


ithinkyoushould-check-who-you-are-with-im-with-stupidBecause The Masses have laid the slick foundation for a Culture of Stupid, and are thus inclined to accept any and all shiny iterations of Stupid, The Thinkers’ position is always in danger of being usurped by more creative/different thinkers bearing golden nuggets of Stupidity. And the cycle continues. It is no secret that every Thinker has their own agenda or private pledge that they are waiting to unleash to The Masses. Just like every religion has their own God, so too does every thinker have her “bible” of ideas in which she believes is spurring her on to spread her “gospel.” For a clear cut example of Stupid Acceptance, please see Lady Gaga. Cultural Theorist Thinkers will tell you how boundary-pushing and “unique” she is, but one only has to reference Madonna before her, and Marilyn Monroe before her to comprehend how readily we’ve been primed to accept the machinations of a so-called pop marketing celebrity.


The unfortunate outcome of being a part of The Masses—The Sheeple as we are now dis/affectionately called—is that well, The Thinkers actually do believe we are stupid. [And really, what have we shown them to demonstrate otherwise?] The Thinkers think that we can’t make decisions for ourselves, unless of course they, The Thinker, plants a strategic seed. Marketing folks are awesome strategic seed-planters and they make mad-coin for knowing what to plant where. Advertising agencies, marketing folks, communications experts, spin doctors, social media butt scratchers, bloggers, and public relations mavens are either your greatest ally or your worst enemy. But you won’t know the difference ‘cuz these folks bank on your stupidity, vulnerability, and gullible nature such that they know you are inevitably charmed by flashy cool shit in the guise of a “good” idea. Hell, even the tree-huggers are in on it. Their goods may not be altogether material and/or superficial, so instead they work on the subconscious. The subliminal messaging of the crunchy set is sometimes more irritating because the implication is that by subscribing to Materialism Marketing you are somehow inferior for not having mastered self-restraint and/or self-reliance. Which may be true, but like so what?


The other day I came a across what I thought was an interesting comment in The Toronto Star. As you may know, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford didn’t want to attend Gay Pride. He stated that he would prefer to spend it with his family. And in the words of Robert Munsch, “that’s that.” Except, folks wouldn’t leave it alone. “They” said he’s homophobic. Among Other Things. Rob Ford wouldn’t confirm or deny. So speculation took a front seat. A  commenter in the Toronto Star wrote that “tolerance is a two-way street.” I sat with this for a moment. And I can’t say that I disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. And we don’t have to veer off into personal philosophies or agendas to comprehend that. If we want the freedom for others’ to choose their way of life, then we need to extend that offer to those who don’t or won’t agree with us. Enter Stupidity.


did-you-have-a-bowl-of-stupid-for-breakfast-buttonStupidity has no loyalties and no points of reference. Stupid just is. And you can’t just wish it away. When we as a mass culture are told what to think or how to think, some of us simply obey. It’s the thinkers who muddy the waters and create impressions that hold sway because remember now, The Thinkers’ existing ideas are always in jeopardy of being replaced by newer thinkers with newer ideas that in effect *need* to appeal to The Masses. It takes knowledge and understanding and a few debriefing sessions to overcome Stupidity. And some of us are willing to put in the work to overcome it, and some of us aren’t. Stupidity’s Sidekick is Fear. Fear does evil things to insecure minds; be they perceived as powerful, intelligent or otherwise.


What’s interesting is that when you are a part of mass culture, much like a mob mentality [see Vancouver Canucks Hockey Loss for “Evidence”], then you really don’t have much power or influence unless you or your product is charmingly persuasive; like Reality Television, or LadyGagMe. See also, Rupert Murdoch and the Culture of  Tabloid Media’isms, which for all intents and purposes once earned a “respectable” place in the discussion. The blurring of lines has effectively taken place and we have the Culture of Stupid to thank for paving the way.


*So, what happened to my former employer, you ask? Interestingly Mass Stupidity made him very rich, but it eventually signalled his financial and reputational downfall. The Smart People got smarter, and the Stupid People moved on. He never really did fully recover his wealth, nor his reputation but that’s what happens when arrogance replaces humility, and folks put in the work to overcome Stupidity. It can be done! I have faith!


See this clip from the movie, The Age Of Stupid.

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